“Kill or be killed. Conquer or be conquered. Survive or go extinct.”
If you clicked on the link above and read my review of RPO, you would know that I was completely blown away by his first novel. RPO will always be my favorite novel of all time, and that fact managed to alter my expectations when it comes to the Sci-Fi genre. I haven’t read a novel as good as RPO, and hopefully I’d fine one soon. After I finished it last year, I checked if Cline had other novels published, and unfortunately none were in existence. Armada was more than a year away, and I was honestly expecting this to be just as good, if not better. If you would ask me what my first reaction was while reading the novel, I’d say I was disappointed halfway through. In the end though, I had mixed emotions. Mixture of sadness, happiness, disappointment, and an inexpressible feeling of wanting for more.
I will not compare RPO and Armada in this review. Yes, I liked the former more than the latter, but Armada was good in its own way. It deserves a proper review. If you’re looking for someone who did a comparison of the two, then I’d suggest reading someone else’s review. The first paragraph was more of a backstory of why I read this novel in the first place, and the shorter version of the reason would be that Ernest Cline is one of my favorite authors ever, and also because the premise of Armada was compelling as fuck.
Let’s talk about the plot. I heard a copious amount of comparison between Armada and The Last Starfighter. Even the author himself mentioned TLS in the novel itself, and I will honestly say that I haven’t seen TLS. I had no idea what the plot was, so I read Armada and thought that the idea was fairly original. I’ve heard of the whole thing before, of course, but I haven’t had much experience with it before. I’m sure I’ve watched something similar, but nothing recently so I didn’t have much to compared it with. This could be the reason why i enjoyed this more as compared to most disappointed readers.
What I didn’t like about the plot would be the very dragging first 1/3 of the novel. I hated how Cline introduced everything. At first I didn’t even like the characters at all, and the plot was boring for me. If I didn’t know much of the author beforehand, I would’ve DNF this. It was that bad, but then the middle part happened. The action started to happen, and the development finally kicked in. The characters were more witty and funny, and I believe that helped a lot. I had a clue on what the ending would be, and once again sadly I was right. No plot twist whatsoever (view spoiler), and I hate it when that happens.
Like I just said, the characters started to develop better in the middle portion, and I learned to like most of them. Zack can be considered your typical main character when it comes to Sci-Fi novels, but I still liked him a lot. His decisions in the novel were a bit out of the ordinary. I like a character who deviates from sanity, but with the right amount of insanity. I can’t talk much of the other character without spoiling, so let’s just say there might be some plot twists for you guys. You might not see it coming, unlike me.
The ending was great for me. I know a lot of people complained about it, but fortunately it was good for me. I liked how he ended things, even though it was a bit cliche. I only really wish for something specific to happen in the end if I liked the characters, and it’s a great thing that I was attached to most of them.
I played a lot of geeky stuff growing up, so plus points for Cline, once again. I like to read about the games I used to play before. It gives me good feeling of how great my childhood was, and that other people experienced some of the retro goodness that i did. it didn’t have much geek stuff incorporated, but I guess it’s fine because the author managed to make to plot better in the end.
Mostly books tend to lose a star because of the ending, but fortunately it was the other way around for Armada. I was sure about giving this 3 stars, but then the last 1/3 of the novel happened, then I decided to give it another important star. Most people would consider 3 stars as an indication that the novel was bad, but for me most of my 3 star ratings meant that I still enjoyed the novel. I guess I won’t have to confuse people now with this 4 star review.
3.5/5 stars. I decided to round it up because the novel was great as a whole. If you want a great geeky Sci-Fi novel, then don’t hesitate to pick this up. I’d also like to add in that you should buy the hardcover edition of this, because the design is spectacular! Not just the book itself, but also the dust jacket. You’ll understand what I’m talking about if you manage to get a copy yourself.